I define family as the people I feel most comfortable with. These are the main people I talk to, joke with, and even fight and argue with. Often times family gatherings, while a ton of fun, may also be a setting for tension and unresolved issues. Therefore, when there is a celebration being hosted with many of people around, I watch my behavior very carefully and try my best to avoid accidentally overstepping public boundaries and cause even more tension during a holiday party. This doesn't always work as I have a very big mouth, but I do take preventative measures to avoid further difficulties by taking these next few steps very seriously. If you employ at least 2 of these, I guarantee you will have a much better time and have a good bonding experience with the people you care about most.
Before the party
Have a talk with your Kids
Some preventative measures are taken before you even get to the party, such as serious talks with your children about proper holiday etiquette. There are two main things you would want to speak with your kids about:
- Proper gift receiving etiquette.
You may not think that you need to, but trust me you do. Kids today tend to have so many things and follow very similar trends. (Last year it was Shopkins, this year it's unicorns and LOL surprise dolls). There may be a very big chance they will either receive something they already have, or receive something they may not like because it didn't follow the proper trend. Whatever the case, let them know to be polite, say thank you, and even if they already have the item they were gifted - they appreciate the thought.
- Santa, Santa, Santa.
The second thing you MUST talk to your kids about is Santa. If your kid believes in Santa, you're fine and can skip this part. However, if you're the parent of my kid, you will find yourself at a playground with your kid screaming at the top of her lungs about the tooth fairy not being real, with all the parents looking at you with genuine hate in their eyes. True story!
Please, do yourself and other parents a favor and tell your kid that there are children who do believe in Santa, and to simply let them have their fantasy and beliefs without ruining it for them.
Dress A little nicer Than You Normally Would
Putting a little extra effort into your outfit for this holiday party will go a very long way. Make sure your clothes and your kids' clothes are picked out the week before. Have everything cleaned, ironed, and ready to go. Make sure you will be comfortable in what you are wearing, and make sure you bring a spare outfit for the kids, more often than not, you will need it.
You do not need to overdo it, but do understand that it is a party and your effort will show respect for the host, the event, and simply make you feel good when those massive amounts of photos are being taken and shared. It is a simple detail that will make you feel more festive and have a big impact on your overall mood.
I would LOVE to see all of your holiday outfits!! Please, please share!!
DO NOT come empty handed
Always, always, always bring something edible or decorative to the party. This shows great respect for the host and provides an immediate contribution to the event.
Good items to bring to any party are:
- Beverages - bringing a bottle of wine or cider is always welcome and very classy.
- Dessert or cheese platters go very well and help relieve some pressure form the host who would now have to make a little less food.
- A bouquet of flowers is very simple with no effort required from you and adds to the festive scenery of the party. A lovely potted Poinsettia plant is absolutely perfect this time of year and will last way after the party is done to serve as a lovely reminder to the host of the fun that was had.
During The Party
You have officially done all your behind the scenes work - spoke with your kids about their behavior, picked out your perfect outfit, got your gifts wrapped, and purchased a party offering. Now its time to party!
During the party however, unexpected obstacles may arise, and tensions may run high between family members. Arguments may ensure between siblings, children may be running around wreaking havoc on the house and uncomfortable questions may be asked - "When are you having your next kid?", "Have you applied to that graduate program yet?", "What are you really doing with your life?" - am I right or am I right?
Say a little (or a lot) less
Do not make many comments stating your opinion and refrain from making too many (or any) suggestions. I know most of us are experts in our work field. And possibly experts at parenting, running the household, and even that signature recipe which the host proudly serves every year. ;) However, no matter how much better you think your suggestion or comment would make the party, please understand that the host is already under a lot of pressure. He or she are attempting to have their event flow as smoothly as possible, without sharing all the breakdowns happening behind the scenes with their guests. And there are ALWAYS breakdowns happening behind the scenes. So, while you may mean your suggestions in the best way possible, during a high stress environment, like a family party, they may be misunderstood and taken as judgements and criticism.
Watch your alcohol intake
Getting too drunk may be very dangerous at a party where you know people's deepest and darkest secrets, and those who you may feel a bit defensive around. I mean, who does feel a little on edge around their parents, or in-laws? I highly suggest avoiding getting too drunk and deciding that this is the right time to finally get this huge thing off your chest you've been waiting to say to your mother for years, or having a drunk debate about religion with the family pastor (yes we have one of those, and yes I have to work real hard to avoid any offence!)
Do not be the family member who people have to hide alcohol from at parties. Or worse, the one who doesn't get invited back.
Just like saying a little less, you can listen a little more.
Everyone LOVES having attention put on them. So when you actually listen and give people the space to speak and be heard, I guarantee you, you will become the most pleasant person at the party. People will talk about how nice you are and you didn't even have to say a word!
When speaking at family parties - less is usually more.
I also found that toward the end of family parties, people begin reminiscing and telling lots of funny, embarrassing, and often very interesting stories about their past. I always get to know my family members, old and new, so much better when I just sit and listen. I had gained so much more insight into my family members' lives, struggles, and expertise. All these things add a lot more depth to the relationships you have with the most important people in your life.
I wish you all a very happy, calm, and pleasant holidays! I cannot wait to hear your family success stories, see photos off all the gifts you gave and received and all the food you shared with the people around you.
Anna Alexandra Lerer.